King Billy’s heritage – Ireland – Early 1700’s
They call themselves Dissenters and often oppose the Crown.
With the death in 1702 of King William III of England and Scotland, he left a legacy in Ireland as a Protestant Nation where his supporters in the religious battles of the last decade are now in the ascendancy, and his Catholic opponents are the targets of marginalization and penalization.
The Irish parliament is also under William’s thumb, and they must disavow themselves of Catholic doctrines. For their allegiance to Catholic King James II, the Irish Catholics were disarmed, their bishops banished. Penal laws were introduced to strengthened the position of the English Protestants in power, and reduce the Irish Catholics to impotent servants.
In this era:
- Catholics are not permitted to vote
- Marry a Protestant
- Join the armed force
- Possess arms even for protection
- Be educated abroad as Catholics
They wera about 70% of the population of around 2 million, yet they owned only 5% of the land.
Farming in Ireland
The farming although overseen by the advantaged English Protestants, is farmed by the greatly disadvantaged Irish Catholics and is woefully inefficient.
Protestants can will property to their one eldest son, maintaining the large estate size, whereas Catholics are forced to divide properties among all male heirs and over time their lands shrink into tiny plots. Protestant land owners often live in England, lease their farms to ‘squireens’ who further subdivide the expensive yet unimproved land to Catholic tenants.
There is little incentive to make land improvements as this increases the value and therefore the rent. The result is frequent food production shortfalls. In 1729 Jonathan Swift, Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and anonymous pamphleteer, publishes “A Modest Proposal” — a sharp satire of the Irish predicament, suggesting the rich should eat the children of the poor, to the benefit of both parties. His works lead economic criticism from 1713-1745.
The situation is different in the northern province of Ulster. It had already been colonized by Scottish and English Protestants over the last century and faired better than the three southern ones due to its unique linen trade.
Brought by French Huguenot refugees, was an exception in the Irish economy. Due to severe trade restrictions, any commodity that competed with England could not be exported.
(Not all were Hugenots, The Wolfendens of Lambeg origins are Olde English. There was in the 16th century a hamlet in Lancashire called ‘Wolfendene’, forming part of the parish of Newchurch-in-Rossendale. It would seem that Wolfendale, the surname, is a localised dialectal transposition of the hamlet name. The name translates as ‘the valley of Wulfhelm’, the later being an early baptismal name of the pre 9th century.
Linen alone had no significant English producers. As are all provinces of Ireland, Ulster is subject to religious persecutions of her non-Church of England inhabitants. Although her Catholic population had been largely displaced, Scottish Presbyterians are also forced to accept the English Church and many suffer exclusion from civil service and the military from 1704-1718. Although most restrictions are eventually lifted, Presbyterians must still recognize the dominance of the English Church and pay tithes. They call themselves Dissenters and often oppose the Crown.
English Protestant landowners enjoy renewed peace and prosperity, build great mansions and expand their estates. In 1714 the Georgian Era begins when George I takes the throne of the United Kingdom (so called when England swallowed Scotland in 1702). He continues to strengthen the parliament by his disinterest in ruling and over the next few decades, the power of parliamentary government overshadows the monarchy. In 1720, the British parliament passes the Sixth of George I Act allowing it to pass legislation in Ireland without the agreement of the Irish parliament.
While Irish Protestants take advantage of their privileged position, some look enviously to the British gentry and yearn for control of their own parliament again.